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Fibromyalgia, the Science behind the Pain

By Leah Regner
from Naturally with Leah

If you’ve found your way to this blog, chances are you’re all too familiar with the relentless battle against fibromyalgia’s persistent pain and obstacles.

As a naturopath and nutritionist, I’ve seen first-hand the profound impact this condition has on individuals and their families. My own daughter struggles with it, which drives my personal commitment to understanding and addressing fibromyalgia underlying causes and discovering effective pain relief strategies.

For those who may be unfamiliar, let’s briefly touch on what fibromyalgia is.

It’s a chronic and often perplexing condition where a person will experience widespread pain, tenderness, and an increased sensitivity to touch, among other symptoms. Despite extensive research the exact cause of fibromyalgia remain elusive, with experts suggesting a complex mix of genetic predispositions, environmental factors, and lifestyle influences.

Essentially, fibromyalgia involves the body perceiving pain as more intense than it would for someone else, a condition known as hypersensitivity, due to faulty nervous system signalling. This phenomenon is referred to as Central Sensitisation, which I’ll delve into further below.

This heightened sensitivity can manifest in various ways, from making a gentle touch intensely uncomfortable and turning everyday activities to become significant challenges. Beyond physical pain, fibromyalgia can also lead to cognitive difficulties, such as memory issues and difficulty concentrating, as well as profound fatigue and sleep disturbances. The emotional toll of living with fibromyalgia cannot be overstated, as individuals often grapple with feelings of frustration, isolation, and anxiety due to the unpredictable nature of their symptoms.

The Science behind Fibromyalgia

Central Sensitisation is a process in the nervous system where there is and amplification of pain caused by a combination of pain pathways abnormalities and brain processing.

Abnormal pain pathway signally. Normally, when you experience pain, nerve signals travel from the site of the pain to your brain, which interprets them as pain sensations.

With central sensitisation, the nervous system becomes overly responsive, so even mild stimuli can trigger exaggerated pain responses. This heightened sensitivity can persist even after the initial injury or condition causing the pain has healed.

It involves changes in the way neurons in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) transmit and process pain signals.

Essentially, the nervous system becomes “sensitised” to pain, making people more susceptible to experiencing pain and discomfort from various stimuli, including those that wouldn’t typically cause pain.

Brain Processing: People with fibromyalgia often experience significant alterations in how their brains process pain signals. These changes are influenced by a variety of factors, including genetics, environmental triggers like trauma or infections, and heightened stress levels.

Research suggests that these alterations affect different areas of the brain responsible for pain processing, such as the amygdala and prefrontal cortex. As a result, individuals may have heightened sensitivity to pain and struggle to regulate their pain responses effectively

Neurotransmitter Imbalances: (Brain Chemical Imbalances.) In fibromyalgia, there are noticeable disruptions in the levels of crucial neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine.

These neurotransmitters are like messengers in the brain, responsible for transmitting signals between nerve cells. When there’s an imbalance in these chemicals, it can throw off the body’s ability to regulate pain signals properly.

For instance, serotonin is involved in mood regulation and sleep, while norepinephrine plays a role in alertness and stress responses. Dopamine, on the other hand, is associated with pleasure and reward pathways.

When these neurotransmitters are out of whack, it can exacerbate pain symptoms and lead to issues like fatigue, sleep disturbances, and mood disorders.

Pain Perception Neuropeptide: There’s a significant involvement of Substance P, a neuropeptide crucial for transmitting pain signals and regulating inflammation.

Neuropeptides are small protein-like molecules used by neurons to communicate with each other.

Substance P acts as a messenger, relaying information about pain to the brain and spinal cord, it is also involved in promoting inflammation. Elevated levels of Substance P are associated with heightened pain sensitivity, exacerbating the symptoms experienced by individuals with fibromyalgia.

Exploring the intricate mechanisms of Substance P offers promising avenues for developing innovative treatments aimed at managing pain and alleviating symptoms in fibromyalgia patients.

The Gut-Brain Connection:  Studies suggest that there is a connection between the health of our gut and fibromyalgia.

The gut microbiome—the community of bacteria living in our intestines—affects immune function, the production of neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the brain), and overall health.

When there’s an imbalance in the gut microbiome, known as dysbiosis, it can lead to symptoms of fibromyalgia. Dysbiosis basically means there’s a disruption in the normal balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut.

This imbalance has been linked to symptoms of fibromyalgia, which shows how important gut health is when it comes to managing the condition. By making changes to our diet and adding probiotics (good bacteria), we might find relief from fibromyalgia symptoms.

Holistic Approaches to Fibromyalgia Management

Natural medicine offers a range of tools to address the physical, emotional, and psychological aspects of fibromyalgia.

Lifestyle modifications, including stress management techniques, regular exercise, and adequate sleep, play a crucial role in symptom management.

Nutrition also plays a vital role in supporting overall health and well-being. A diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods, antioxidants, and essential nutrients can help reduce pain and inflammation while supporting energy levels and mood stability.

While Natural Medicine Week provides a spotlight on alternative therapies, it’s important to seek guidance from natural health practitioners throughout the year, especially for managing fibromyalgia.

Embracing Natural Medicine Week

In celebration of Natural Medicine Week, I invite you to join me for a webinar on May 24th at 12:30 pm, where we will delve deeper into holistic approaches to managing fibromyalgia. Whether you are living with fibromyalgia or supporting a loved one on their journey, this webinar aims to empower you with knowledge and strategies to nurture wellness naturally.

More about the author

Leah Regner
– Naturally with Leah

Leah Regner, a dedicated naturopath and nutritionist welcomes individuals seeking support for a range of concerns including autoimmune diseases and fibromyalgia at her clinic “Naturally with” in North Gosford or through telehealth appointments.

With a compassionate approach guided by her motto "No Judgement and Realistic Goals."

Leah creates a supportive environment where clients feel comfortable discussing their concerns and aspirations.

Drawing from personal experience with autoimmune disease and family with fibromyalgia and evidence-based practices, Leah provides personalised care tailored to each individual's unique needs. Her goal is to empower clients on their health journey, offering both expertise and understanding every step of the way.